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CCC 2267 “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm -- without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself -- the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
St. Paul told us, 1 Thes 5:9 “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation.” Mt 6:14 “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” Mt 7:2 “The measure you give will be the measure you get.” Lk 6:37 “Forgive, and you will be forgiven … The measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Mt 12:37 “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
St. Paul taught, Rom 13:4 “… [The state] does not bear the sword in vain; [it] is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer.” CCC 2266 “Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense ... Punishment, then, in addition to defending public order and protecting the people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.”
We are Christ’s soldiers in the spiritual war. Our mission is to save every soul we possibly can for Christ, including those of murderers. Jesus was clear: Lk 6:35 “Love your enemies.” He loves every human person made in Gn 1:27 God’s image and likeness. Our Father in heaven wants every person to have his full opportunity to come to Christ for salvation. If we deliberately cut short a man’s life, knowing that we are denying him an opportunity to receive Christ into his heart, we are traitors.
We can save every soul we possibly can only if we are consistently pro life. If we say that we seek to protect human life from conception to natural death in every case, we will inspire a certain amount of respect even within the culture of death. However, once we admit an exception, even one based on the obvious distinction between innocent and guilty life, the culture of death will not take us seriously.
We must go farther. Russ Ford, who knows a thing or two about the application of Catholic principle to prison life, points out that the Church’s teachings on human dignity allow no exception for sinners, and no exception for prisoners. We must treat every human being with dignity because Christ calls us to do it. If we treat our prisoners brutally, Jesus may see us as the soldiers who nailed Him to the Cross.
We Catholics Heb 13:14 “...have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” Rev 21:2 Christ came Jn 10:10 “...that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” That also must be why we have come.
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